Heroin is cheap, potent, and readily available, contributing to its popularity among persons with opiate addiction. Every community in the eight counties of the Northern Kentucky Area Development District has been affected by the heroin epidemic on an unprecedented scale. A recent newspaper article identified Northern Kentucky as “heroin ground zero,” describing our region as “…the state’s epicenter for heroin, straining legal and medical systems and bringing deadly consequences that are starting to spill out to the rest of the state.”
Heroin is affecting families in Northern Kentucky without regard for status, income, family composition, race, faith, or location. The University of Kentucky Center on Drug and Alcohol Research has estimated that alcohol and other drug abuse costs the Commonwealth more than $6 billion annually. This estimate takes into consideration crime, medical costs, workplace accidents, lost wages due to substances, auto accidents, and other costs borne by society.
Combating the epidemic requires more resources than are currently available. Of the Commonwealth’s 14 regions, Northern Kentucky receives the lowest per capita allocation of federal and state funds for treatment of substance abuse and mental health disorders.
The Leadership Team of the Northern Kentucky Heroin Impact Response was formed to alter the trajectory of the heroin epidemic. The Team’s successes to date include influencing lawmakers to make Naloxone (a medication that can reverse heroin overdoses) more readily available. Now, the Team is releasing our four-year plan to stabilize the epidemic by:
- Reducing the supply of heroin
- Setting up a regional infrastructure for accountability
- Advocating for needed policy changes
- Reducing the demand for heroin by:
- Preventing new cases of addiction
- Expanding the availability of addiction treatment, including the availability of medication assisted treatment
- Preventing relapse by improving recovery support over the long term
- Reducing overdose deaths and the public health threat and financial burden posed by drug-related infectious diseases such as hepatitis C, hepatitis B, and HIV
Fully implementing the proposed initiatives will cost approximately $4 million per year. Within each strategy 2017 target outcomes are provided; periodic reports on progress toward achieving those outcomes will be provided to policymakers and the community. Together, we can end this crisis that is ravaging our communities.